Birthday Weekend!


Happy birthday to me!  I ended up taking two days off and spending a long weekend in California.  It was fantastic.  SMS had planned fun things to do and the weather was absolutely beautiful.

The only (out)house we can afford in Silicon Valley. Great views though!

I arrived late Friday night and on Saturday, I woke up for wine time!  Does that sound either way too early and/or that I slept until late afternoon?  Yes.  Though what actually happened is that SMS planned a lunchtime picnic at Ridge Winery, located in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  We drove up the winding mountain road, filled with expensive sports cars and seemingly suicidal bikers.  The Ridge Estate is near the top of Monte Bello, with an incredible view over the Valley.


But first, wine.  We went into the tasting room where SMS asked to sample the chardonnay.  He had been to Ridge the weekend prior with some French colleagues and thought the wine was delicious.  It was.  We ordered a bottle and took it up to the knoll, where there were several tables.


We had a feast!  SMS had bought Mt. Tam cheese, olive tamponade, coppa, and crackers.  It was an awesome spread and we had such a fun, mellow time.  We also witnessed an engagement!  There was a couple with a blanket on the hill but what made us notice them were the two photographers he had hired to photo document the event.  It’s crazy to me that someone (the woman) can be in situation where surveillance-like photos are being taken and have no idea but it’s hard to know everything that’s going on in background surroundings.

Sidenote: In looking up what meat SMS had bought, I found this list of “30 Essential Cured Meats.”  For me, big nopes include headcheese and zungenwurst.

After the winery, we headed back to the house.  Later that afternoon, we had a reservation for hot tubbing at Watercourse Way, followed by dinner with our friends Akshay and Jyotsna.  They were running late so Mark took me by his work and showed off the prototype car.  It’s pretty spectacular!  The building itself was very impressive- commercial/industrial real estate is fascinating to me.  It’s amazing how much planning and coordination of multiple systems have to be considered within the overall building design.

Environmentally painted tree in Palo Alto. Sure, whatever!

We went to Lazy Dog for dinner, which had really good food.  I ordered the spaghetti squash with “beetballs,” since I was craving veggies.  It was delicious.  Jyotsna, who placed her order later, was unlucky because I had ordered the last plate.  Maybe I will invite her over and recreate the dish as a makeup!

At the end of the meal, Akshay had requested a scoop of ice cream be brought out with a candle in honor of my birthday.  It was definitely embarrassing to be sung to in the restaurant but also very sweet of him to think of the mini-celebration.


The next day, I slept in which was delightful.  SMS and I decided to do something active so we headed over to Windy Hill for a hike.  It was gorgeous.  This time, we parked at the top, walked down Spring Ridge Trail and up Hamm’s Gulch Trail.  I definitely think this is the way to do it!  Walking down SRT allows for beautiful views of the valley while walking up HGT provides shade during the higher exertion part of the hike.

For dinner, we went out for Korean grill with two of our friends.  The food was delicious and the conversation quite interesting, since part of it involved Brexit from a British perspective.  Of course, they don’t represent all of the UK, but hearing about living through the referendum campaign was quite interesting.

Monday, I was on my own because SMS had to work.  #startuplife.  No matter!  I had a great day planned!  First, I went to Blue Bottle coffee and got an Americano.  I had been quite grumpy at them the day before because they totally ripped me off with a half-full espresso the day prior.  Picture a tiny espresso.  Now picture it even tinier.  Boo!  But clearly, I got over it quickly enough to go back, albeit still a little grumpy.

Get over it!  Ok, so anyway, then I went for a 10 mile run to the Stanford Dish, around, and back.  It’s actually only 9 miles total from the apartment and back so I had to add a mile at the end, which is always a little hard to motivate for but I did it!  Then, I went to Rangoon Ruby for lunch where I had the Tea Leaf salad (5 stars) and Nan Gyi Dok (noodle dish- would not recommend).



After lunch, I walked over to the Cantor Arts Center and walked through a couple of exhibits there.  Upon entering, there is the most incredible horse sculpture that looks like it is made of driftwood but is actually cast bronze.  The artist made ceramic casts of driftwood, filled them with bronze, and then shattered the ceramic casts once the bronze had cooled.  It was a stunning piece called Viktoria by Deborah Butterfield.

I also took in the 3 works that comprise Do Ho Suh’s The Spaces in Between exhibit.  They were interesting works using repetitive visual objects to create a larger piece/sculpture.


I also walked through Josiah McElheny’s Island Universe, where I inadvertently broke several rules.  First, I missed the strict designation for photo taking spots since, apparently, people had actually walked into the sculptures while taking pictures.  Poor form, ruining it (and the sculptures) for everyone.  To be clear, I did not do this.  The second thing I did was walk under a sculpture (that was suspended about 9 feet off the ground) because earlier in the exhibit, a piece had randomly fallen off of it.  So, basically, I walked through an exhibit full of reactive rules, ha ha.


I also saw the Betelgeuse by Spencer Finch, suspended over Rodin’s The Thinker.  Overall, it was a very cool museum outing that took a little over an hour.  On the way back home, I walked through Stanford Mall with beautiful flowers throughout the mall.

I could have stayed longer but I had to walk back to the apartment to get ready for my Korean spa appointment, which was an experience that was so amazing/crazy that it will have it’s own post.  I’m envisioning David Sedaris levels of hilarity although the reality will likely be just an extremely awkward post with bad and unwanted mental images.

That night, SMS and I went out to Camper, a restaurant that had caught his eye.  It was a really nice birthday dinner.  We ordered several dishes with an even split between the amazing and the ok.  The drinks were quite good.  The restaurant acoustics were pretty terrible and are making me contemplate a second career in acoustic design (I have ideas!).  Overall, I would recommend the place but there are still so many places we want to try that I don’t think SMS and I will be back anytime soon.  Does that make sense?  It was definitely a good experience but it didn’t vault itself into the “most become a regular spot” category.  I do think it is a regular spot for many because it was very crowded for a Monday night!

The next day, SMS and I went out for breakfast at Blue Bottle where we split an avocado toast and had our own hot drink.  After packing and picking up the apartment, I headed to the airport where I had a delightful lunch in the American Express Centurion Lounge (love that place!).  On the flight, I got a free drink since the United computer told the flight attendant it was my birthday!  I continued the corporate flare to my birthday by getting upgraded on the second leg AND getting a free Starbucks drink during the layover.  Happy birthday to me!  Why so much travel on my actual birthday day?  Well, I don’t have a lot of vacation time due to a big trip the second half of this month plus SMS would have had to work during the day so I decided to head back.  The weekend was celebration enough!

JEC Day 2 and Last Night in Paris

Our personal driver was back to escort us to JEC day 2.  It was quite cold, rainy, and windy out so it was nice to be indoors.  We finished up touring all the booths and went to a conference on Phenolic resins for fire resistance and low smoke.  It is an old material used extensively inside trains and airplanes where fire safety is critical.  We were also informed that Bakelite is still quite popular in Europe but has a stigma in the US as being old school.  Caroline always says that I am a bit old school.  I still program in Fortran so there you go.  I will need to find a use for Bakelite!

By this point in the trip, Adam’s wife Adrienne joined us.  Three is company so we headed to restaurant Allard, which ended up being a bit classic and that was the point.  Old school!  It was good but I do not think it is a must visit.  We finished up the night at the Rosewood Bar at Hotel de Crillon near Champs-Elysees.  It was Thrusday and as anybody from Palo Alto knows, Thursday night at the Rosewood Bar in Palo Alto is Cougar Night!  It did not seem to be the case in the Paris version.  Perhaps the $20 beers keep it low key.

Adrienne’s friend Adrian is the night manager of the hotel so we got to tour a room a nice courtyard and a banquet hall with views of the Eiffel Tower. The room had historic painted walls in it that have to be removed when they work on the interior.  It is only $1295 per night in winter so I was thinking of booking one for my next week in Paris.


Friday stared off with a visit to our supplier’s Paris headquarters.  On the walk from the metro we encountered a small street fair where we got crepes and an omlette sandwich.  Yum.  We had a French café lunch at their 8thfloor café.  The chef was a bit intense.  I think he probably joins the yellow vest protests even though he probably doesn’t have a car (fuel tax protest).  We finished up work early so it was off to the Catacombs of Paris which happened to be nearby our hotel.  The wait was about an hour.  If you book online then you can skip the line.


The Catacombs start off with a spiral staircase going down into the ground and it never seems to end.  Then a long narrow tunnel leads to what was once a limestone mine that got turned into an ossuary.  It is like a wine cellar but stacked with human bones instead of wine barrels.  The mines were used to “build Paris”.  In the late 1700s the then abandoned mines became the perfect place to begin moving remains from cemeteries.  At that time Paris was looking for room to expand and it turns out that the living needed the land more than the dead.

Friday finished off with a stop at Ker Beer, a new and hip beer bar full of Brittany style beers.  Apparently the 14tharr is all Brittan themed. Adrienne met us there and we headed off to a “Michelin Star” pho at Pho Tai in the 13tharr.  I am not convinced of this rumor but it was very tasty. They did have a few Michelin guides in the restaurant.  The broth was a bit more rich and less clear than traditional pho.


Saturday was our last day and I struck out on my own to walk the Luxembourg garden.  If there is one thing I like as much as old school it is tiny countries.  While not Luxembourg proper, the garden was nice.  It has rows of trees and a big palace of the same name.  From there it was off to the airport.  On the flight, I read Bad Blood cover to cover in one go.  It is a riveting true story of Silicon Valley drama at the company Theranos.  I am currently working in the old Theranos Newark lab.  Some of it still has the old lab space left untouched and some quotes on the wall by none other than the protagonist herself.

My flight landed in Oakland 11 or so hours later at about 7:00 pm and it was straight off to my friend’s birthday party in a newly gentrified and millennial feeling bit of Oakland at a restaurant/brewery Drake’s Dealership.  They made better use of the place than the car dealership it replaced.  It was a long Uber ride back to MP and I slept a good 12 hours that night.

Sunday Soliloquy #8

  • This week marked a return to real book reading rather than an e-reader.  I read two!  One was Jasper Fforde’s new book, Early Riser, which was good.  Very absurd but I enjoyed it.  I would recommend his Thursday Next series over this book though if you had to read just one of his books.  I also read Maeve Higgins’ Maeve in America which was a collection of personal essays.  There were a few on immigration that I quite liked but overall, the book was fine.  Not my highest rec but it was a quick read.
  • This weekend has been fairly mellow.  After a month of Whole 30 (yay!  done!), I ate some of Run Fast, Eat Slow‘s superhero muffins and my long run pace was about 25 seconds faster.  Yay!  I think carbs are helpful for endurance workouts (says almost every sports nutrition article out there, I know).
  • I went to a patient’s 90s hip hop birthday party that was a lot of fun  I dressed up in scrub pants, a shirt that had “NO” spray-painted on, and several attached scrubbie sponges.  Get it?  No Scrubs!  While I had to explain my outfit several times, it was definitely a hit once people got the joke.  As everyone knows, there’s nothing funnier than a joke that needs to be explained (waaaiiitttt….).  For those not up on their 90s hip hop, “No Scrubs” was a pretty big hit for the group TLC.
  • I’m off to California next weekend!  I can’t wait.  Then it’ll be two weeks before I head off to Japan!  I even have reservations at the New Sanno!  April is the month of no work, ha ha.

JEC Composites, Day 1

SMS guest-posting continues…IMG_7136

Day 1 of the JEC composites conference started out with a Criossant and an hour train ride jam packed to Tokyo standards. The JEC takes up 2 large exhibition halls in the Parc des Expositions near CDG airport. It is full of composite materials manufacturers, tooling manufacturers, and composite part manufacturers. There are some lectures. We attended ones on electric cars, structural simulation, and fireproof resin. There were a lot of booths and we covered most of them the first day.  One thing that stick out to me are the thermoplastic composite parts. They are made with re-meltable plastic as opposed to traditional composites that set and cannot be re-melted.


IMG_7112Also noteworthy were the companies with bars in their booths. You won’t see that in America.


On the way home, I stopped in to restaurant Augustin near the hotel. It ended up being upscale. I had a 3 course meal that was more than filling. The Filet Mignon I had was the whole fillet, not just a medallion American-style. They somewhat forgot to cook it and, because it was so thick, came out very rare for my taste.  I should have got the duck because it is typically not done well (or at all) back home but I think America has steak nailed pretty well.

Sunday Soliloquy #7

  • Instagram FOMO is real!  Sometimes, I read articles where people are whining about how perfect everyone else’s life seems to be on social media while they are falling apart and I think, “Get over it!” But, I know I’m missing out when I see a friend of mine cheering on runners at a local race with an enormously oversized cutout of Meb Keflezighi’s head.  That is amazing!!!  I had to miss out because I am on call and there were too many road closures to risk getting stuck somewhere if I got called in.  So I guess I will have to FOMO myself all the way to the bank when I get paid!
  • My family has wrapped up an insane few weeks of travel!  Mom and Dad were in Japan visiting my sister.  Ed and Meg also visited although they were traveling with a troupe that seemed to go throughout Japan, including Sapporo.  Apparently, a postcard is on the way and I can’t wait!  Finally, SMS was in France and one guest post is already up.  I need to move it and edit the second so that everyone can get caught up and be sad for me that I wasn’t there (FOMO!).
  • This past week, I hosted a great book club where we discussed My Year of Rest & Relaxation.  It was a great meeting.  Then I ripped through On a Cold Dark Sea for the other book club I go to and that was also a lot of fun.  It was pretty hilarious how one woman just flat out that book.  She’s a librarian so I’m always interested in her thoughts and some of her library/book world gossip.  Give me that knowledge!  Now I am reading Early Riser by an author who I really enjoy even though his absurdity can get almost to the point of tiresomeness…but not quite!
  • Oh!  I also went to A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City, a comedy (surprisingly?) put on by the Generic Theater of Norfolk.  It was good although I had some hopes for the plot that weren’t realized but maybe I can write my own version?  Also, the woman’s mother had amazing lines but had such a breathtakingly fast whipsaw between being completely unaware of her similarities to her daughter while complaining about her daughter and having an implied reconciliation scene (sorry, spoiler alert) at the end.  It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen but…eh.